A research report released by the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) has revealed that nearly a third of all women in developing countries begin childbearing at age 19 and younger, and nearly half of first births to adolescents are to children, or girls aged 17 and younger.
The report, therefore, recommended that policymakers provide girls with comprehensive sexuality education, mentorship, social support, and quality health services, provide families with economic support, and engage local organizations, all within a supportive policy and legal framework that recognizes the rights, capacities and needs of adolescents, particularly marginalized adolescent girls.
The UNFPA, therefore, called on governments to invest in adolescent girls.
Commenting while reacting to the report released on Tuesday, the UNFPA Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem, said: “Governments need to invest in adolescent girls and help expand their opportunities, resources, and skillsets, thereby helping avoid early and unintended pregnancies.
“When girls can meaningfully chart their own life course, motherhood in childhood will grow increasingly rare.”
While total fertility across the globe has fallen, the UNFPA report shows that women who began childbearing in adolescence had almost 5 births by the time they reached age 40 in 2015-2019.
“When nearly a third of all women in developing countries are becoming mothers during adolescence, it is clear the world is failing adolescent girls,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.
“The repeat pregnancies we see among adolescent mothers are a glaring signpost that they desperately need sexual and reproductive health information and services.”
The UNFPA noted that having their first child, additional childbearing in adolescence is common for child mothers. Among girls with a first birth at age 14 or younger, nearly three quarters also have a second birth in adolescence, and 40 per cent of those with two births progress to a third birth before exiting adolescence.